On the summits of the Olympic Mountains, panoramic views extend out in every direction, displaying the greatness of wilderness far below your feet. While most view mountain climbing as something that is best left to the experts, the professionals, and the fool-hardy, there are a handful of mountains, just off Hood Canal, that most hikers can summit. Offering breathtaking views around every corner, wildlife experiences second to none, and a lifetime of memories on short, steep day hikes, the mountains of the Hood Canal should be explored by all who are able.
High above the fjord of the Hood Canal, the Olympic Mountains give those who are up for a bit of steep climbing the best views in Washington State. From the city of Seattle, to every major mountain in the Pacific Northwest, the mountains of Hood Canal continue to leave hikers breathless from views and steep trails. While climbing a mountain isn’t everyone’s ideal hike, there are five mountains above the waters of Hood Canal and Lake Cushman that will reaffirm your love for the wilderness of the Olympic Peninsula.
Quick Safety Tips
No matter what the weather, always be prepared and bring the 10 essentials with you. Practice Leave No Trace policies and hold others to the same standards. Be aware that in the winter, these easy, steep day hikes transform into true mountains, with advanced hiking skills and serious gear required. Also, it is important to mention that hikers need to remain at least 50 yards from mountain goats and other wildlife.
Considered the most iconic mountain to climb along Hood Canal, Mount Ellinor makes you earn all 5,499 feet of this rocky summit. While steep, the short trail to the summit is well-maintained, dog-friendly and offers some of the greatest panoramic views in all of North America. With the city of Seattle, Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens and the entire Olympic Mountain Range expands out in every direction, it is hard to not fall in love with the view. Sure, the trail gains 2,400 feet in a little under two miles from the upper trailhead, but the reward is worth every drop of sweat. High above Lake Cushman and the Hood Canal, mountain goats frolic on rocks, and all of the gloriousness of the Pacific Northwest can be seen. Mount Ellinor is a must-hike trail and should be seen often. In the summer months, it may be crowded; but it is always worth the effort. More information on Mount Ellinor can be found here.
With views of Seattle, Sequim, Port Angeles, and both the Cascade and Olympic Mountain Ranges, it is hard to find a more accessible mountain to climb than Mount Townsend. Standing just above 6,000 feet, this tree-free, dog-friendly mountain is everything you would expect from a mountain on the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula.
With over 30 switchbacks and varying terrain, this is a trail for hikers of nearly all abilities. In the summer, this trail can be quite popular, as the views are unrivaled for the level of accessibility. In the winter, Mount Townsend turns into a snowy wonderland, full of powdery adventures and extreme snowshoeing experiences.
On the trail to the summit, the well-groomed path meanders back and forth, rising from old-growth forests with rhododendrons to wildflower-filled meadows. Eventually, the trail reaches the ridge line of the mountain, heading sharply up to the gentle summit. Take your time as you are heading up, as the trail can be quite steep. When the weather is clear, Seattle, Mount Rainier and the Hood Canal Bridge can be visible to the east. More information on the 8-mile round trip hike to Mount Townsend can be found here.
Once you are finished climbing Townsend, stop by for a drink and a meal at 101 Brewery at Twana Road House.
Few ever reach the summit of Cub Peak; but then again, few ever try. Located in the Staircase Region of Olympic National Park, Cub Peak is one of six mountains that can be easily climbed in the Staircase Region. At only 4,755 feet above sea level, Cub Peak seems like it would be a breeze to reach the summit. Instead, Cub Peak sits nearly 1,000 feet above Wagonwheel Lake, which is considered to be one of the steepest day hikes in Olympic National Park.
Once you arrive at Wagonwheel Lake, the well-marked trail fades away, replaced by a boot path leading up the ridge on the left side of Wagonwheel Lake. Gaining 800 feet in three-tenths of a mile, the final push to Cub Peak will challenge all levels of hikers. The trail to Wagonwheel Lake and beyond will be tough for those not used to hiking in the rugged Olympic Mountains and is not recommended for people new to hiking.
If you do hike to the summit of Cub Peak, be prepared for incredible views of the Hamma Hamma River Valley, Mount Pershing, Mount Washington, Mount Ellinor and the Skokomish River Valley. More information on the 6.5 mile round-trip hike to Cub Peak can be found here.
Once you are finished climbing Cub Peak, head a few miles to Hoodsport, turn north and cruise into Lilliwaup to dine on a deliciously greedy burger at Eagle Creek Saloon.
Many locals will downplay Mount Rose, saying it isn’t worth the effort to reach the top. Those locals are lying, hoping to keep this amazingly fun hike all to themselves. Located along the shores of Lake Cushman, the 6.3 mile round trip hike to the summit of Mount Rose climbs 3,334 feet, making it quite steep. The trail starts out flat, then quickly rises up lazy switchbacks before reaching a fork in the trail. The path to the left offers the shortest distance to the summit, but it is also the steepest. Keep to the right and enjoy a gentler elevation gain and great views.
Once at the summit of Mount Rose, look down on Lake Cushman and the Hood Canal, or out toward Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and Mount Saint Helens in the distance. While the summit is mostly in the trees, a small rocky outcropping makes for a perfect lunch stop atop this beautiful destination. More information on Mount Rose can be found here.
Once you are finished climbing Mount Rose, head into Hoodsport and relax with chips, salsa, a margarita and delicious Mexican food at El Puerto de Angeles IV.
While the other mountains listed are along nice trails and are mostly well-travelled, the Olympic Mountains over Hood Canal have one peak that is a true mountain. Rising 6,620 feet above Hood Canal, Mount Washington is a difficult hike and climb that only experienced hikers should attempt. Heading straight up along a difficult to locate trail, the path to Mount Washington gains 3,500 feet in around two miles, making it incredibly steep. Crossing scree fields, climbing over headwalls and walking along exposed ridges, Mount Washington is a first step into mountaineering.
Mount Washington’s summit is completely exposed, and may be difficult for those with a fear of heights. As you work your way across the rocky slabs, the majesty of the Pacific Northwest expands out in all directions. With views better than Mount Ellinor, and a summit that feels like a real mountain, Mount Washington is where hikers go along the Hood Canal to have the best day summit possible. The views are breathtaking, the path is steep, and every minute spent on Mount Washington is better than the last. More information on Mount Washington can be found here.
After successfully standing on the stunning summit of Mount Washington, head down past Union and splurge on a mouthwatering meal at the magnificent Alderbrook Resort.